Rataiczak’s impact goes far beyond sports and championships

Tom Rataiczak’s title with the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference was executive secretary and treasurer.

To say he did so much more than that wouldn’t be coming anywhere close to doing him justice.

During the course of the last 20 years, Rataiczak — through his vision and dedication — has led the OVAC to unmatched heights.

Rataiczak was more to the OVAC than its leader. He was — and still remains — its biggest fan and supporter. And that will not change.

While Rataiczak is handing off the reins to Dirk Decoy, effective Monday, his impact will be felt forever.

Not only did Rataiczak leave an impact with the OVAC. Quite simply, he left an impact on everyone who came to know him. That’s a measure of a successful man.

Obviously, in 20 years of dealing with sports, schools and all of the added initiatives of the OVAC, Rataiczak met — and impacted — a lot of people. We decided to reach out to as many as we could for a thought on how ‘Rat’ impacted them personally, their event or sport.

As you’ll read, the impact was far greater than words can ever describe.

Here’s a look at what others have to say about Rataiczak:

DONNA JOSEPH, Track and Field — I knew Tom from high school, but never dreamed we would be working together for the past 20 years to improve the OVAC for its athletes. Tom has always been a good sounding board and open to new ideas.

MARK COOK, Martins Ferry A.D. — Tom is one of the most organized people I’ve ever met. Not only did he put countless hours into his OVAC position, he has taken the conference to another level. He will be an excellent mentor for Dirk (DeCoy) as he assumes the position.

JEFF CROSIER, OVAC President — Tom has been the face of the conference for 20 years and I have been privileged to serve for 13 of those years. I have experienced first han his leadership and many knowledge of many sports guided by the OVAC. He has been instrumental in promoting and growing our conference.

TOM BECHTEL, OVAC Softball Commissioner — Rat has been a great person to work with my role with softball. He’s always willing to listen and very supportive. We didn’t always agree, but he was willing to hear you out and work together toward a common goal.

JAMES COMPANION, Scholastic Sports Marketing — I will be forever grateful to Tom for having the vision and trust that gave Scholastic Sports Marketing a chance back in 2005. This opened the door for many great businesses and organizations to become official corporate partners of the OVAC and in turn support the kids of the Ohio Valley like no other cause. This sponsorship support has made the conference financially stronger than ever which allows it to continue to prosper, make a positive difference and enhance the student-athlete experience.

COREY MURPHY, OVAC WV Board Member — Tom is the OVAC! I have always been impressed with his work ethic and passion for the kids of the OVAC. Tom has been a mentor and friend to me. I will always appreciate his candor.

AL GLITCH, OVAC Voice — Tom has done an outstanding job with the OVAC. He continually creates new ideas which allows the OVAC to not only raise the bar, it is the bar. He also makes sure all of his workers feel appreciated for the work they do.

DR. DAN DOYLE, OVAC Wrestling Commissioner — Tom has been an advocate for all the OVAC student-athletes. He has always been supportive of wrestling throughout the OVAC as evident through his attendance at all the championships and the many hours he spent in his own wood shop on projects to improve the Ron Mauck championships. His support and guidance are greatly appreciated.

DR. WALT SKAGGS, OVAC Board Member — Tom has been a true ambassador for the student-athletes of the OVAC. He has worked dilligently to ensure that the conference remains one of the best in the nation with opportunities for its students like no other. I am truly thankful for his mentorship, guidance, insight and friendship. The OVAC owes Tom Rataiczak a huge debt of gratitude for his unrelenting desire to be the best!

MOLLY FELLER, OVAC Banquet of Champions Director — ‘A truly great mentor is hard to find, difficult to part with and impossible to forget’ — Author unknown. Tom is not only a mentor to me, but remains a good friend.

LIBBY SHEPHERD, OVAC Cheering Director — Ask Tom a question about cheering, and I bet he could give you a pretty good answer. For the past 20 years, he has been helping me with both competitions whether it be setting up, moving mat or checking on vendors. No task was too big or too small. He has helped me make the two competitions what they are today.

E.J. SCHODZINSKI, OUE Athletics Director — I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from Tom for many years with the OVAC championship, all-star games and OUE-OVAC Scholar Athlete Awards and Scholarships. He is a true gentlemen and friend and will be sorely missed.Best wishes to Tom on a well-deserved retirement.

KELLY RINE, OVAC Class Representative — Rat’s passion and love for those four letters — OVAC — is unmatched. He’s hands down, the most organized individual I’ve ever been around and his leadership qualities led to significant and positive changes within the conference that ultimately benefits student-athletes.

BOB KOCH, OVAC All-Star Football Director — Tom is a hard worker and great friend. In the 19 years that I’ve done the all-star game, he’s always been there to help. He would be on the OVAC Mount Rushmore … perhaps along Route 7 somewhere?

TOM TISHER, OVAC Hall of Fame Committee — Tom has done great things for the OVAC. He’s taken a very good conference and left it as a great organization.

LINDA MYERS, OVAC Queen of Queens — I have worked with Tom on various OVAC committees and events his entire 20 year tenure. He is an amazing individual who has taken the OVAC to greatness. I am blessed to have worked with Tom, and he will always be a lifelong friend.

DUGAN HILL, OVAC Track and CC Commissioner — Tom always has the best interest of the OVAC in his mind and is always looking for ways to make this conference better. I can’t imagine how many minutes a day his thoughts are geared towards this conference. He soaks up any idea about the conference from others and evaluates its possibliities for the betterment of the conference.

DOUG HUFF, OVAC Hall of Fame Committee — The OVAC is the nation’s largest functional high school sports conference because of the dedicated work of a lot of people. The late Sam Mumley put the OVAC on a solid foundation and got it going in the right direction. Tom Rataiczak took the baton from Sam and never missed a beat in expanding the conference both in quantity and quality.”

JEFF HARRISON, OVAC Hall of Fame and Softball Committees — I’ve known Rat almost 40 years and no one has devoted more time to the youth of the OVAC than him. His attention to detail and desire to grow the conference in countless directions is incredible. Working alongside him with the hall of fame is truly an honor. Sports fans of the Ohio Valley will forever be in his debt.

JIM ROCCHI, OVAC Varsity Board Director, Dual Meet Wrestling Director — Tom’s dedicated service to the youth of the OVAC is unparalleled. His visionary leadership has not only impacted student-athletes for the past couple of decades, but will continue to impact our valley’s future for many more decades. He always believed in creating successful men and women, not just successful athletes.

BOB CAIN, OVAC 2A Golf Director — Tom has beenthe consummate professional the past 20 years. His organizational skill has helped the OVAC golf tournament run very efficiently.

BILL BRUBAKER, OVAC Swimming Director — Tom has done several things; the most important for the swimmers of the conference. He recognized the results from the Ohio Valley Swim League Championships meet. Those adults can now look back on their years swimming in the OVAC and due to Tom’s efforts consider themselves OVAC Champions as their predecessors had for so many years. As for me, he namesaked the OVAC Swimming Championship meet and I am sure he had something to do with my getting into the OVAC Hall of Fame. Tom has always been there when something was needed whether it was his time or something for the meet.

BEN MCPHERSON, OVAC All-Star Band Coordinator and OVAC Showcase of Bands Director — Tom’s attention to detail is incredible, nothing is left to chance. His ability to lay out the big picture, delegate the details, and trust the folks to handle them (with his full support) are key to the success of the OVAC. It has been a pleasure to work under his leadership.

GEORGE FRAZIER, OVAC Tennis Director — Tom has been a very special influence in my life as a professional and man of God. Tom welcomed me into the OVAC family 15 years ago and provided me with incredible support along the way. My appreciation for the conference is much greater than it was to me as a young athlete. I realize the commitment that Tom demonstrated as it’s executive director has caused it to strengthen andhis leadership has had a profound effect on many lives! Our Lord will certainly say one day, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

JERRY NARCISI, OVAC Executive Board and Track Committee — In my 20 years working with Tom on various OVAC levels, including my role as a board member or on the track committee, it was abundantly clear Tom always strived to make things better for the conference and especially the student-athlete. I quickly found out, to achieve these things, he was organized with focus and vision. We are better off because of Tom.

DAVE CLUTTER, OVAC Football Commissioner — The confidence and trust Tom gives his team have allowed the conference to flourish. This evolution is owed to his vision.

MIKE SHERWOOD, Bellaire HS Athletic Director — While Rat will point out the contributions of many others, he was the driving force that made the OVAC the conference it is today. He was always committed to providing the best opportunities and services to the student athletes. Through his leadership, and unmatched organizational skills, the conference is thriving and financially secure organization that will serve the Ohio Valley for years to come. No one could have served as a better executive director than him.

BUBBA KAPRAL, Executive Sports Editor, Hall of Fame Committee — The growth that the OVAC has realized under Tom Rataiczak’s two-decade tenure is remarkable. His boundless vision and passion, combined with his tireless work ethic, have elevated an already strong conference to unparalleled heights. Rat embraced the OVAC unlike anyone else. As a result, it is the flagship of all athletic conferences in the nation.

STEVE WOJCIK, OVAC Baseball Commissioner — Ever since Tom brought me on as baseball commissioner, he has had only one goal in mind in regards to baseball. How can we make baseball better for all conference schools. He always thought how the changes made by the baseball committee would affect all of our teams and players, hoping that those changes had a positive impact. He has had an impact on me, personally, just by showing me what a conference should do. His attention to detail, his leadership skills and above all putting the needs of our conference schools and the teams front and center.

RON WHITE, OVAC Basketball Commissioner — I have worked with Tom all of his 20 years in the OVAC, even though I have known him much longer than that. He has always been there whenever I had a situation or just a question. Not only has he answered the questions, but he was always right there helping me set up for the banquet or anything else that had to be done. My wife, Eleanor, & I have nothing but respect and admiration for what he and his wife Linda have done for the OVAC.

RON MAUCK, OVAC Wrestling and All-Star Football Director Emeritus — Tom’s impact on the sport of wrestling are many, through his guidance eight floor clocks were purchased. Tom built and designed cabinets for each clock and all other accessories for wrestling at the WesBanco Arena.Tom established the Hall of Fame, and the Museum at WesBanco Arena to honor athletes, officials and coaches. Tom has provided the opportunity for thousands of young athletes to compete in first class championships.

DON ZINNI, OVAC Assistant Football Commissioner — Tom and I used to sit on his porch and discuss how we could make the conference better. When he started in 1999, it was floppy discs, envelopes, rolls of stamps and just how we advanced to the technology era and him allowing me to take the football manual and expand on it. He allowed me to take the manual and run with it for the best of the OVAC. He also allowed us to expand the OVAC and officials to get some exposure. He also allowed us to expand our officiating base to utilize officials from all over the conference. He wanted to get the best people available working the conference games.

DR. CHELSEY FLETCHER, OVAC Volleyball Commissioner — Tom has been an integral part of my life in athletics since I was a high school athlete. I am eternally grateful for his dedication, time and mentorship.

J.R. BATTISTA, OVAC All-Star Basketball Game Director — Rat’s organization and attention to detail has made the OVAC All-Star Basketball Game one of the finest games in the tristate area. We are just trying to keep this train moving along.

JOYCE JINGLE, OVAC Queen of Queens Director — The greatest thing about working with Tom was that he always made you feel appreciated. He always let you know that your efforts were noticed and often reminded us all of the reason that we do what we do – the kids of the conference.

SETH STASKEY, T-L Sports Editor, OVAC Hall of Fame, Basketball, Track and Field Committees — Rat deserves all of the praise he receives for his work with the OVAC. With all due respect to the founding fathers of this great conference, Rat has taken something really good and made it unbelievable. Rat has been a great friend and person to lean on in many regards and for that I am eternally grateful. Guys like Tom Rataiczak don’t come around every day. As it pertains to getting to know and working with Tom over the last 20 years, the pleasure has certainly been all mine.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com